• Steve Morelli (left) with Gary Williams. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
The Gumbaynggirr language, once threatened with extinction, finds a voice in modernity.
By
Hannah Hollis, Philip Ly

Source:
NITV News
24 Mar 2016 - 12:56 PM  UPDATED 24 Mar 2016 - 12:56 PM

‘Marlawgay buuguny’, which translates to ‘email’ or more literally ‘lightning message’, is one of the newest additions to the Gumbaynggirr language from Coffs Harbour on the north coast of NSW. 

So is ‘miya banggi’, which translates to the poetic expression of ‘breath that flies’ and means ‘telephone’.

These are a couple of 400 new words that feature in the second edition of the 3,000-word Gumbaynggirr Dictionary and Learner’s Grammar.

Author and linguist Steve Morelli says associates, such as Muurrbay Aboriginal Language Centre’s chief executive Gary Williams, helped him “throw around words in the language centre to think of ways of using the old words”.

Mr Morelli says he is glad the language is growing now, given that it was nearly lost during colonisation.

“Language, story and song, and ways of relating have been suppressed as it were, and this is a way of saying these are here and we’re actually documenting it,” he told NITV News.

Gary Williams of the Muurrbay Aboriginal Language Centre says the “whole community”, from the council to parks and wildlife groups and schools, have become excited about the project.

He says one of the reasons is because the language is becoming relevant to a new generation.

“This dictionary has been written with the future in mind, it’s there for the next generation of linguists to carry forward.”

The release of the dictionary, which also provides insight into the language’s three dialects, follows the first version published in 2008.